Maybe it was just the rest of us who were distracted.
Clearly, Jordan Mein was in an unenviable spot Saturday night, fighting Mike Pyle at UFC Fight Night 49 just a day after his father was arrested on sexual battery charges, accused of assaulting a housekeeper at the event’s host hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to the UFC (via Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting).
The 24-year-old Mein blitzed through the ensuing media storm, decimating Pyle with a barrage of strikes just one minute, 12 seconds into their co-main event bout. Naturally, he said afterward that the allegations against his father didn’t affect him.
“No, not at all,” Mein said, when asked at the post-fight press conference if the scandal altered his preparations, via MMAFighting’s Dave Doyle.
For those on the outside, it was not so easy to put it out of our minds.
The Friday morning arrest of Lee Mein just before the UFC weigh-ins came on the heels of the horrific charges made against Josh Grispi earlier this month and at the end of War Machine’s (born Jon Koppenhaver) flight from justice last week. It was just one more blow to a fighting community already staggering under the weight of a lot of disheartening news.
None of the guys making co-main predictions in FS1 studio factored in the distraction Mein is dealing with. No mention of father's arrest.— Jeff Wagenheim SI (@jeffwagenheim) August 24, 2014
So our emotions were mixed watching Mein take to the cage this weekend. Regardless of his father’s eventual guilt or innocence, the alleged incident had nothing to do with the son. Maybe we even felt a little bad for him, returning to the cage for just the second time in 16 months in a high-profile bout against a savvy veteran.
Anybody who knows Mein’s story knows he was considered a child MMA prodigy in his hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta. He started training in martial arts at four years old, fought in kickboxing when he was 11 and turned to MMA at 14. His father is a well-known local fighter and promoter, and in 2011, Mein told Bleacher Report’s Andrew Dodds his dad was still "the key person driving my development."
Now headed into his 38th professional fight, he was planning to have his father in his corner against Pyle. After the arrest, however, the UFC released a statement (via MMAMania’s Jesse Holland) calling the charges against Lee Mein “deplorable” and banning him from appearing at the event.
Weirdly, none of that—nor the fact he’d had his opponent switched on him twice leading up to this card—appeared to hamper Jordan Mein on fight night. While our thoughts were with the alleged victim or just wondering how these terrible stories can snowball so fast around a sport that once thought it'd successfully dragged itself out of the shadows, Mein said he had no trouble zeroing in only on Pyle.
Maybe he just wasn’t out there long enough for any of it to sink in. Mein and Pyle were both just dipping their toes into the action when their fight was suddenly over.
A bit more than a minute into the first round, Mein faked a takedown attempt and came over the top of Pyle’s defenses with a three-punch combo. Pyle dropped, and by the time Mein followed him down with a series of punches on the ground, it was clear he wanted no more. Referee Dan Miragliotta was ready with a timely stoppage to save Pyle from more damage.
It shaped up as an important win for Mein. He’s now 3-1 in the UFC, and his only two losses of the last four years have come against top contenders Matt Brown and Tyron Woodley. Pyle was No. 12 on the UFC’s official welterweight rankings coming into this fight, so it stands to reason that Mein will at least crack the Top 15 on Monday.
Yet, Mein’s ascent in the 170-pound division isn’t the only thing we're turning over in our heads the morning after watching him crush Pyle. He may have been able to press on after his father’s arrest—maybe even finding some clarity during the short time he spent inside the cage—but the rest of us remain a bit more conflicted.
While we don't want to rush to judgement, we also wouldn't feel right simply marveling at Mein's powerful left hook or his potential to shake up the welterweight rankings. Maybe it's not his fault, but we can't ignore the fact the charges against his dad cast a cloud over this win and further contributed to what had already been a pretty bad month for our sport.
At this point, you couldn’t blame the rest of us for wondering when MMA will finally cease to be haunted by stories like this one.
Soon, we hope.
But not this weekend. Not today.